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Braving the World’s Fastest Zip Line in Wales

Would you take on the world’s fastest zip line? I got up the nerve to try it at Zip World in Wales.

Filming a travel adventure for a TV show sometimes requires a little waiting… well, more than a bit. With forty minutes to pass before I let myself be catapulted down face first over a stone quarry in the Snowdonia Mountains, I had nothing to do except watch everyone else’s reactions prior to their descent. Laughter mixed with expletives mixed with tears and one mother with her teenaged boy who almost decided to turn back. That’s the mother, not the boy. I was taking on Europe’s longest and the world’s fastest zip line, called “Velocity,” at Zip World in Wales, and the experience was both frightening and exhilarating.

Preparing to fly over what once was the world’s largest slate quarry at Zip World.

Preparing to fly over what once was the world’s largest slate quarry at Zip World.

If you ever seek out new adventures on your travels, whether it’s zip lining, jet skiing or driving a rental car on the wrong or right side of the road in Ireland, you understand that your experience can be thrilling or downright scary. While you may not consider yourself a thrillseeker, sometimes it’s the adrenaline rush of being in a new situation that may make you want to take the plunge. Or perhaps it’s your best friend’s goading.

Watching from above as other brave souls travel at speeds of over 100mph.

Watching from above as other brave souls travel at speeds of over 100mph.

Wearing a ridiculous looking, windproof red flying suit, I got hooked into Velocity at Zip World, starring 500 feet down into an abyss of jagged rocks and a surprisingly pretty, blue quarry lake, nerves set in. I began to sweat, my safety goggles fogging up just enough that I wondered if it was actually better not to see this swift excursion, where your speed can excel well in excess of 100mph. Then, I resigned myself to the decision that I was indeed going down. Before I knew it, I heard “three, two, one” and my heart raced forward, only to be pulled back.

Getting ready to go down. Your hands get fixed behind your back, so you feel a bit helpless.

Getting ready to go down. Your hands get fixed behind your back, so you feel a bit helpless.

The helpful guide pulled me upward, unhooked my cables and I got back on my feet. It wasn’t that I was chickening out. It was that in filming with a single camera, something for which our film crew has won three Daytime Emmy Awards, you sometimes have to film in steps. Thus, I’d sit back down on a bench on this platform at the top of a stone quarry and watch the rest of those travelers have their own chance to get a little nervous prior to flight.

I guess I'm ready to go. No going back now!

I guess I’m ready to go. No going back now!

I always think about safety when I’m trying a new adventure, especially abroad. There have been times when I have chosen not to participate in an activity because it did look a little too risky. Zip World is located in Bethesda, Wales, which is ironically the name of the city where I live outside of Washington, DC. By virtue of its name alone had the innate effect of making me feel like it was a little more of a known entity, though it really wasn’t. It’s also in the UK, meaning there are strict safety standards in place. That made the fact that I was about to fly like Superwoman and that I had no control over the situation once the guides detached my gear, start to feel more fun.

Finally, I was able to get set up to fly for real. I turned on the Go Pro on my helmet, heard that “three, two, one,” and set off, enjoying the fastest minute in zip lining I’ve had to date. It takes about one minute to careen down this mile-long line and if you open your eyes, the views are stunning. I shrieked and giggled as I glanced up and down and down and up, revealing in views of the verdant patchwork countryside for which Wales is so well known. On a clear day, you can see out to the Isle of Man. Before I could really get into the groove of feeling airborne, I came to an abrupt stop at the end of the line. My camera crew caught the gigantic grin on my face. All I could think was that it was all over too fast. This is often the case for life’s most fun adventures, especially those we appreciate in that moment.

It's over so fast! But wow what a rush on the wildest zip line I've ever tried... and I've tried a lot!

It’s over so fast! But wow what a rush on the wildest zip line I’ve ever tried… and I’ve tried a lot!

It’s this feeling of testing our limits, trying something new and perhaps slightly dangerous that can make you feel alive, whether you do it at Zip World in Wales or somewhere else.

If you think this adventure sounds exciting, head for the world’s fastest at Zip World or try a slightly more tame pursuit. Other places I’ve zip lined and like include Skyline Ka’anapali on Maui and the Gulf Adventure Center at Gulf State Park in Alabama. For mountains and forests, head to Canopy River outside of Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, which offers a zip line eco-tour with awesome views of the Sierra Madre Mountains. On the East Coast, Empower Adventures takes you through the forest outside posh Middleburg for a fun, family friendly ride.

Watch this segment in our “Northern Wales: Isle of Anglesey & The Coast” episode on your local PBS TV station and Amazon Prime. See more adventures in Wales and the UK in our travel itineraries. Also, since my visit, Zip World has opened Velocity 2, capable of running passengers up to 125 miles per hour on a Zip Line… what’s next?

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Travels with Darley is a travel TV series broadcast on PBS stations and on digital networks, including the AOL On Network. Host Darley Newman of "Equitrekking" fame joins locals to showcase the top food, culture and adventure attractions in the USA and around the globe.

TravelswithDarley.com is the companion site with travel guides, videos and information so viewers can recreate the adventures seen on the series and beyond.

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